Public governance

Aix-Marseille at the crossroads: Overcoming fragmentation for a stronger metropolitan area


05/12/2013 - The metropolitan region of Aix-Marseille in the south of France needs to tackle its fragmentated governance if it is to return to more inclusive and sustainable economic growth, according to a new OECD report.


It says Aix-Marseille remains a dynamic metropolitan area. It had the second-highest employment growth among European urban areas in the OECD database between 2000 and 2012, and the highest among French metropolitan areas. France’s third-largest metropolitan area also improved its standing in terms of innovation, business start-ups and international attractiveness.


Presenting the report in Marseille, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said: “A return to inclusive growth will entail tackling issues of economic development and citizen welfare on a scale which matches the realities of the broader employment market”. He added: “Metropolitan regions across the world are having to meet growing demands from their citizens, often against a backdrop of tighter budgets. This requires better co-operation between levels of government.”


Despite its strengths, Aix-Marseille still faces many challenges. Sharply rising employment has not been enough to make a significant dent in joblessness: at 12%, unemployment still exceeds the average rate for France and for the 275 metropolitan areas in OECD countries with populations of over 500 000. Aix-Marseille must also confront international competition in a number of  sectors. For example, the port of Marseille-Fos has lost ground in recent decades as compared with port cities such as Genoa, Antwerp and Barcelona.


The report says the metropolitan area’s greatest challenges come not so much from the outside as from within. Aix-Marseille is one of the most unequal of French metropolitan areas, whether in terms of income, access to employment or education. These socio-economic inequalities are reflected in the differences between localities. The youth unemployment rate climbs to 50% in certain districts where more than a third of the population have no formal educational qualifications.


Aix-Marseille, comprising over 130 municipalities, is, along with most of the other metropolitan areas in France, among the most highly fragmented in the OECD. In addition to the municipal level, there are six inter-communal entities, the département, the region and the central government’s local outposts. The fragmentation of government action impedes adequate solutions to the challenges of employment, competitiveness, joblessness and exclusion.


Ten different authorities have responsibility for public transport within the metropolitan area. Fewer than 10% of all journeys within the area are taken by public transport. The resulting congestion and pollution are substantial, and journeys to work are made difficult. There is also a lack of co-ordination in areas such as land-use planning and economic development.


Faced with similar challenges, a great many OECD metropolitan areas have instituted governance reforms in recent decades, including Barcelona, Frankfurt, London, Montreal, Portland and Copenhagen. The OECD study provides an international perspective  on the planned reform of Aix-Marseille, holding it up against the range of reforms currently underway in other OECD countries, and proposes a number of levers for change.


The future metropolitan area, the contours of which are under debate in the French Parliament, will need to show that it delivers genuine added value, institutionally and financially. It will also need to tackle issues that have not so far been adequately dealt with by other territorial entities. The legislation is just  a first step. Clearly it is implementation that will determine the impact.


For further information about the report, journalists are invited to contact Claire Charbit (tel.: +33 1 45 24 99 19); Dorothée Allain-Dupré (tel.: + 33 1 45 24 82 43) ou Isabelle Chatry (tel.: + 33 1 45 24 98 02) in the OECD Governance Directorate.


To read the report or for more information on Towards more inclusive growth in the metropolitan area of Aix-Marseille: International insights, can be found at:


Related Documents